Switching From XP to Linux – Should You? 04/07/08
A question from John.P in Texas:
“…About the poll called “Are you considering a switch from Windows to Linux?” I see that almost 47% of visitors say “Yes” (so did I). I am an XP user and was wondering if you can post a short note for advice about switching to Linux?…“
What’s surprising, is when I examine the web stats for the blog, the month of March 2008 showed 41% of visitors used Windows XP! (The first week of April shows 48.8% used XP). Also, for mere interest 88.3% of browsers for the first week of April 2008 are Firefox. And, for March 2008 Firefox comprised 78.5% of visitors. This tells us that visitors are indeed Open Source users and that readers are almost a 50/50 split between Windows and other OS’s (such as Linux). Additionally, it appears from this week’s poll (the one you mentioned above) and earlier polls, that there is genuine interest in your question.
This is a hard question to answer for you in one post. To answer the question, perhaps it’s best to ask yourself this question, “Is it a good idea to switch to Linux?” or “Am I willing to take the time to explore new things and have fun?” If you’ve answered yes, read on…
Try the LiveCD first and see if you are able to get used to the newer system. I made my choice very quickly after using it.
Obviously preparation is important. When I switched, the primary concern for me was my data. I needed a way to save all my documents, music and email. The email was an easy fix because I had already migrated to Thunderbird (if I remember correctly, Thunderbird will import all your Outlook express email). I’ve posted a couple times about Thunderbird, and both posts do include information about backing up your email:
To ensure you don’t lose other important files, such as documents, browser favourites, etc. You can burn all of them to a DVD, or save them to a file server. Don’t have a file server? If interested, take a peak at this post: 30 Dollars, 30 Minutes, 1 Nice Fileserver. In my case I set up a local (LAN) FTP server and uploaded all my files and the email backup to it.
Side note: If you’re using a Windows server, such as IIS for FTP, the file system will probably be NTFS. Don’t worry, that will not prevent you from accessing the files and copying them back to your Linux based PC. When you copy them back, the ownership (permissions) of the file will reflect to the account that you logged into your Linux session with.
Obviously, I needed a copy of Linux, and in this case chose Ubuntu Linux: Get Ubuntu. I might add that there are several flavours of Linux as well as several flavours of the Ubuntu Linux distribution. You may want to consider some of them. Here are the Ubuntu flavours that I’m aware of: “Ubuntu Based Linux, 32 Flavours and Then Some…”
What Applications Should I Use:
After you’ve completed the Linux installation, you’ll need some applications that are more or less, equivalent to your older Windows counterparts. Here’s a mini-list to consider:
Microsoft Office – Get Open Office.
IE – Get Firefox (it is part of the Linux Installation).
Outlook Express – Get Thunderbird.
WSFTP (or some other) – Get gftp.
The above four I think are the main ones, just to get you going right away, but you will want to install more applications. For a larger, more robust list, read: “Top 100 of the Best (Useful) OpenSource Applications“. Prior to installing more applications, Evolution is included with Ubuntu Linux installations and I don’t have any use for it. I’ve had to keep removing it for the last four years that I remember. In my opinion, I’d suggest removing it:
sudo apt-get --purge remove evolution*
Other things I’d suggest:
After your installation, I’d suggest the following:
Improve the Software Repository list: “The Best Ubuntu Linux Repository List“.
Expand your Multimedia experience: “How to Play Most Restricted Media Formats in Ubuntu“.
Get cross platform fonts: “How to Install TTF and CTF Fonts in Ubuntu.”
Finally, there’s been some discussion on this blog about the need for anti virus software on Linux. The “informed” consensus appears to indicate that it’s not needed. One of our readers (yochai ) wrote:
“…To further exemplify the inherited process argument, lets give an example:
You open firefox as a normal (ie non-root) user. No matter what you do from here, any program or file executed by firefox will only maintain your permission set; ie if you downloaded a nasty executable it STILL couldn’t hurt your machine as it only had the rights of the program that downloaded it— namely firefox, which is being run by you, the normal user…” You can read the full post and discussion here: Does Ubuntu Linux Really Need Antivirus Software?
Needless to say, there is a lot more freedom and flexibility than I could ever write in this post. So… If you have a question, feel free to ask in the comments area below.
Above all, have fun!
Update: There’s a good post on Look2Linux called “10 reasons to convert to Linux, 5 not to” where, like me, the blogger was a Windows user. They covered my two favourite reasons:
#5 “Extremely fast compared to Windows. Linux may take longer to boot up than Windows but once you are logged in you rarely see any lag in running time (unless on really old computers). Linux doesn’t have to run applications such as a virus checker which are running all the time taking up system resources, so it can run a lot faster. Because of the lack of things running continuously it means that Linux hardly ever crashes. I say hardly ever because it has crashed on me in the past. What tends to happen though is that an application will crash and then you can force quit it, not keep pressing exit and then getting End Now windows coming up over and over again doing nothing like a certain operating system (mentioning no names, W*nd*ws, lol, I don’t totally hate Windows you’ll see that later on)”
#8 “A wide range of choices. Unlike Windows where you can choose between 5 versions, one better than the previous one, there are literally thousands of Linux distro’s out there for you to choose, geared at different types of users. Most people start with the simpler and popular ones like Ubuntu, Debian, RedHat etc. and then when they get really good at it they may try investigating what else is out there. As a beginner it is always best to go for a popular one so that there is a big community to get help from if needed.”
Visit the post (link above) to see all the points. Pretty good.